Tag Archives: Linden Manor

Article: The Dark Lady of Devon by Catherine Cavendish

Catherine Cavendish is one of my most loved authors and a great writer friend. She’s one of the most talented women gothic and horror writers working today and she’s extremely supportive of other authors and her writing friends. She lives in the UK and always offers me the best essays for my site featuring haunts from there (though she has featured some in the states too), which I always love. Enjoy her article today on a very interesting ghost, and check out all her gothic titles, recently re-released. Linden Manor, and some of her other books, are some of my favorite reads.

The Dark Lady of Devon

by Catherine Cavendish, author of Linden Manor

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“My ladye hath a sable coach,

And horses two and four;

My ladye hath a black blood-hound

That runneth on before.

My ladye’s coach hath nodding plumes,

The driver hath no head;

My ladye is an ashen white,

As one that long is dead.”

My novella – Linden Manor – features the ghost of Lady Celia Fitzmichael, about whom a scary nursery rhyme was written, which haunted my main character, Lesley Carpenter. In it, Lady Celia is never mentioned by name. Instead, she is referred to as ‘The Scottish Bride.’ And woe betide you if you laid eyes on her ‘blackened face.’

This made me research other notable hauntings by tormented brides (and women generally) and, inevitably, my path led to Devon, home of so many wonderful hauntings and folklore. Here, I found a tale which has all the hallmarks of a Daphne du Maurier dark story (OK, I know she wrote in neighbouring Cornwall, but you get my drift.) The tale of Lady Mary Howard is a dark and tragic one. Every night, her ghostly carriage and massive black dog, regularly travel sixteen miles from Okehampton Castle to Fitzford House and back again. Each time, the purpose of their journey appears to be to transport a single blade of grass.

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So who was Lady Mary? And why does she perform this repetitive ritual?

She was born Mary Fitz in 1596, only legitimate child of Sir John Fitz, a man whose inherited wealth made him too rich, too young (at age 21). He spent his money, sinking into depravity and degeneracy to Dorian Gray proportions. His wickedness eventually alienated him from the whole of Tavistock – the town near his home of Fitzford House. Then, two men were killed on the steps of his house. They included his best friend. John Fitz slid into insanity and committed suicide at the age of 30, leaving nine year old Mary alone. She was sold by King James I to the Earl of Northumberland. He married her off to his brother, Sir Allan Percy, to ensure her fortune passed to their family when Mary was just twelve years old. Her new husband was 31.

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The enforced marriage was shortlived as Percy caught a chill while on a hunting trip and died in 1611. Soon after, Mary eloped with her true love, Thomas Darcy. Tragically though, he died just a few months later. Mary had yet to celebrate her sixteenth birthday, so she was technically still the Earl’s ward. He married her off to husband number three – Sir Charles Howard, fourth son of the Earl of Suffolk. They had two children who both appear to have died in infancy. Then he too succumbed and died – of unknown causes – leaving Mary a widow for the third time at the age of just 26.

By now, tongues were wagging. That’s a lot of husbands to lose in rapid succession. Had the father lived on in his daughter? After all, didn’t Sir John Fitz become mixed up in murder at one time?

By now, perhaps as a result of her experiences at the hands of unscrupulous men, Mary had learned a little about keeping her hands firmly on her own purse-strings. She was now a wealthy and desirable widow and married husband number four – Sir Richard Grenville – who no doubt thought he was onto a good thing. He soon found out his new wife wasn’t to be taken advantage of. He didn’t like it and vented his wrath cruelly on her. Mary refused to relent, and kept her money safe.

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In the end, Sir Richard’s cruelty became too much for Mary and she sued for divorce, between 1631-32. From then on, a series of extraordinary events saw Sir Richard imprisoned for debt, his subsequent disappearance for seven years and terrible injustice heaped on Mary when he returned and a court ordered that he could seize Fitzford House and her possessions. When Mary eventually turned up there (she had been living in London), she found the mansion wrecked.

Her marriage to Grenville was the only one to produce children – a son, Richard, who died young, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary – neither of whom Mary had anything to do with as they served as a constant reminder of their father. She did keep one child with her though. Her son, George, born around 1634 and whose father is unknown (possibly Theophilus, Earl of Suffolk).

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As she grew older and remained, with her son, at the restored Fitzford House, Lady Mary became noted around Tavistock for her strong will and imperious temper. When her son died unexpectedly in 1671, she never recovered and died soon after. Then the legendary hauntings began.

It is said that, at dead of night, the gates of Fitzford House creak open and a massive black hound, with flaming red eyes bounds forward. Behind it rattles a coach made of bones, driven by a headless coachman. Its single passenger is a ghostly lady. Sixteen miles up the road, the coach stops at Okehampton Castle where the dog picks a single blade of grass. Back at Fitzford House, the dog lays this carefully down on a stone. Legend has it that when all the grass has been thus transported from Okehampton Castle, Lady Mary will finally be at rest.

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Now, here’s a flavour of Linden Manor:

Have you ever been so scared your soul left your body?

All her life, Lesley Carpenter has been haunted by a gruesome nursery rhyme—“The Scottish Bride”—sung to her by her great grandmother. To find out more about its origins, Lesley visits the mysterious Isobel Warrender, the current hereditary owner of Linden Manor, a grand house with centuries of murky history surrounding it.

But her visit transforms into a nightmare when Lesley sees the ghost of the Scottish bride herself, a sight that, according to the rhyme, means certain death. The secrets of the house slowly reveal themselves to Lesley, terrible secrets of murder, evil and a curse that soaks the very earth on which Linden Manor now stands. But Linden Manor has saved its most chilling secret for last.

Linden Manor has just been reissued by Crossroad Press and is available from:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

 

Other books by Catherine Cavendish include:

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And are currently available – or soon will be – from:

Catherine Cavendish Amazon page

Catherine Cavendish Amazon page

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Catherine Cavendish lives with a long-suffering husband and ‘trainee’ black cat in North Wales. Her home is in a building dating back to the mid-18th century, which is haunted by a friendly ghost, who announces her presence by footsteps, switching lights on and strange phenomena involving the washing machine and the TV. Cat has written a number of published horror novellas, short stories, and novels, frequently reflecting her twin loves of history and horror and often containing more than a dash of the dark and Gothic. When not slaving over a hot computer, she enjoys wandering around Neolithic stone circles and visiting old haunted houses.

You can connect with her here:

Catherine Cavendish

Facebook

Goodreads

Twitter

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Author Cat Cavendish on the Making and Inspiration of the Gothic Linden Manor

Today, Catherine Cavendish is here again to talk about the inspiration for the setting of her novella, Linden Manor.  Based on Wiltshire, in the English countryside, she also talks about the type of mansion she used and why, as well as other writing tidbit that went into the creation of her Gothic story. You can check out the interview we had earlier in week, HERE.  And be sure to read about her book following her guest article!

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Inspirational Wiltshire – The Perfect Setting
by Catherin Cavendish, Author

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I knew my story – Linden Manor – needed a rural setting. I knew a Gothic mansion had to be at the heart of it and that the land on which it stood must have history dating back thousands of years. Immediately, I knew there was only one place for me – the rolling hills of the green and pleasant land that is the English county of Wiltshire.

For a county that is nowhere near the largest (I believe it’s ranked around 14th out of 48 in terms of area), Wiltshire knows how to punch above its weight. The whole timeline of English history is encapsulated within its boundaries. Stonehenge and the even older Avebury, the manmade fortress of Silbury Hill, long chambered tomb of West Kennet and other prehistoric sites with names such as Sanctuary and Windmill Hill, never cease to entice and enthrall archaeologists, historians and even casual tourists from around the globe. It has been this way for centuries.

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In the eighteenth century, gentleman antiquarian, William Stukeley, studied the ancient stones circles at Stonehenge and concluded that Druids were responsible. He dated the creation of the monument to 460BC – a few thousand years too late. He furthermore decided that the Druids were also responsible for Avebury and while we have known for many years that this was also chronologically impossible, old ideas persist. Recent excavations at Stonehenge are beginning to radically revise the timelines there, suggesting a much earlier date than had previously been thought. Soon, the same may be said for Avebury.

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Stonehenge stands proud on Salisbury Plain, where sightings of UFOs have regularly been reported over the years. Some people vehemently maintain that magnetic forces are strong in that area and attracting alien visitors. Others maintain the ancients were acutely aware of these forces and this is what led them to choose the locations for the many stone circles dotted across the British landscape. Salisbury Plain is largely owned by the Ministry of Defence and used for army activities of many kinds, including tanks, artillery, aircraft etc. It is thought by many that experimental testing of new forms of armaments may well be responsible for some, if not all, sightings.

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Wiltshire is also the home of the famous White Horses – stylized depictions of horses, carved into the chalk hills. Of these, only the one shown here is ancient (probably Bronze Age), whereas the other seven surviving examples were carved within the last 300 years or so.

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Then we have the Moonrakers. These days, this is the collective name given to natives of Wiltshire, but, in past centuries the term related to a group of smugglers, probably from Devizes, who tried to avoid the excise men by hiding their ill-gotten hooch in a village pond. Under the full moon, they ‘raked’ the surface of the pond, causing ripples, meant to conceal the kegs beneath the surface. When the excise men challenged them, they claimed to be raking in a big cheese. The officers believed them to be simple country bumpkins and left them alone!

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And then there are the historic houses – stately homes and houses of architectural interest. Wiltshire has dozens of them. From magnificence of Wilton House, through to the homeliness of Great Chalfield Manor (pictured below) and across all styles in between, some are veritable palaces, while others provide a cosy, welcoming atmosphere. Not all though…

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My Linden Manor had to fall into the latter category. Gothic, imposing. A house of secrets. Wiltshire has many such houses. Here is one…

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 Now, here’s a flavour of Linden Manor:

Have you ever been so scared your soul left your body? 

All her life, Lesley Carpenter has been haunted by a gruesome nursery rhyme—“The Scottish Bride”—sung to her by her great grandmother. To find out more about its origins, Lesley visits the mysterious Isobel Warrender, the current hereditary owner of Linden Manor, a grand house with centuries of murky history surrounding it.

But her visit transforms into a nightmare when Lesley sees the ghost of the Scottish bride herself, a sight that, according to the rhyme, means certain death. The secrets of the house slowly reveal themselves to Lesley, terrible secrets of murder, evil and a curse that soaks the very earth on which Linden Manor now stands. But Linden Manor has saved its most chilling secret for last.

 LindenManor

Linden Manor is available from:

Samhain Publishing
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.ca
Amazon.com.au
Kobo

Omnilit
B&N

Author Catherine Cavendish, Biography~

Catherine CavendishCatherine Cavendish is joint winner of the Samhain Gothic Horror Anthology competition 2013. Her winning novella – Linden Manor – is now available in all digital formats and the print anthology will be published in October. She is the author of a number of paranormal horror and Gothic horror novellas and short stories. Her full length novel, Saving Grace Devine, will be published by Samhain Publishing in the summer.

She lives with a longsuffering husband and mildly eccentric tortoiseshell cat in North Wales. Her home is in a building dating back to the mid-8th century which is haunted by a friendly ghost, who announces her presence by footsteps, switching lights on and strange phenomena involving the washing machine and the TV.

When not slaving over a hot computer, Cat enjoys wandering around Neolithic stone circles and visiting old haunted houses.

www.catherinecavendish.com

https://www.facebook.com/CatherineCavendishWriter?ref=hl

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4961171.Catherine_Cavendish

http://twitter.com/#!/cat_cavendish

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